KANSAS CITY- Sprint may finally be climbing out of the mess it's in.
That's what investors were thinking Thursday, sending shares of the company up 28% after a fourth-quarter report that, while still ugly, wasn't nearly the train wreck some expected.
Customers are still dropping Sprint like a hot potato, and about 1.3 million left Sprint's mobile service in the quarter. Sprint's reputation is badly tarnished, and even though the company has improved customer service and network reliability, it now must convince customers (current and potential) that things are better.
"It takes time for perceptions about our customer care and financial stability to catch up to the reality," said CEO Dan Hesse during the earnings call, according to Digital Daily.
Losing 1.3 million customers in the quarter is especially painful for Sprint considering that its biggest rival, Verizon (VZ), added about the same amount during that time, according to Reuters. And AT&T (T) added about 2.1 million. Ouch.
Sprint's revenue was just slightly below analyst expectations. But EPS was better, coming in at a loss of one penny a share when many had expected to see a loss of three cents.
Sprint has reduced its workforce by 14% and cut its debt load, and the numbers show that the carrier is slowly resolving its financial issues, according to DSLReports.com. But customer turnover was still high at 2.16%.
In the short term, Sprint's pinning its hopes on an upcoming handset by Palm (PALM), called the Pre, that it will sell exclusively. The Pre (pictured) looks great and is already getting positive buzz. It's no iPhone, but it doesn't need to be. It just needs to help turn customer momentum at Sprint -- and I think there's a good chance it will do that.